Below is the statement released by the Coalition for Ethics Reform in response to the threatening letter sent by City Manager Rick Fernandez’s attorney to the City’s Independent Ethics Board
The Coalition for Ethics Reform is outraged that, through his attorney, City Manager Fernandez has demanded an apology from Tallahassee’s independent ethics board over a complaint that Fernandez unethically received a $4,761 illegal deep discount from the Edison Restaurant for his daughter’s wedding reception. The complaint also claims Fernandez helped line up a job for the restaurant’s catering director Eddie Kring in the city’s communications department four months after he had been fired from the Edison.
Attorney Steven Andrews’ letter to board attorney Jerry Currington attempts to bully the board into making an apology, when the Board was only performing its duty to hold city officials accountable.
Since City Commissioners have so far refused to strengthen enforcement of Tallahassee’s absurdly weak ethics code, the Board had no choice but to refer the matter to the Florida Commission on Ethics.
In his letter, Mr. Andrews complained that Mr. Fernandez, his daughter and son-in-law, Delia and Brian Finnerty, an attorney in Andrews’ firm, were never formally or informally served a copy of the complaint or given an opportunity to reply to it or give sworn testimony to the Ethics Board.
The argument is specious, since the complaint was not against the Finnerty’s, but against Fernandez for using his position to solicit a gift from the restaurant, which is substantially subsidized by the City.
The Ethics Board clearly has the legal authority under the 2014 charter amendment to “refer ethics and corruption matters to appropriate enforcement agencies.” The citizens of Tallahassee voted overwhelmingly to create the independent Ethics Board to act as an ethics watchdog in our community and the idea that the Board should apologize for doing its job is absurd.
Peter Butzin, Common Cause Florida
Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida
Catherine Baer, Tea Party Network
Marilyn Wills, League of Women Voters